Senators bounce back, fall short

Almost everything that could go wrong for the Ottawa Senators Sunday afternoon did.

Senators bounce back, fall short
Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn scores the game-winning shootout goal against Ottawa Senators' Robin Lehner during NHL action in Ottawa on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Almost everything that could go wrong for the Ottawa Senators Sunday afternoon did.

Give up an absurd number of shots to their opponent early? Check.

Fall in a 2-0 hole by the 21st minute, then take a double-minor for high sticking? Check.

Storm back, only to give up a third-period lead by putting the puck in their own net? Check.

Watch No. 1 goalie get carted off the ice on a stretcher? Check.

And yet, they were feeling pretty good — nay, great — after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars at Canadian Tire Centre.

First and foremost, they were relieved that starter Craig Anderson appeared to have escaped serious injury after a terrifying collision in overtime. Secondly, they were happy with their vastly improved play as the game rolled on.

Anderson stayed motionless on the ice after he was run over by Stars rookie Valeri Nichushkin, and a hush fell over the arena as trainer Gerry Townend ran out to assess the situation. Chants of “Andy! Andy” occasionally punctured the silence as paramedics lifted him into the stretcher and as he waved while being rolled off the ice.

Medical personnel determined a trip to the hospital wasn’t necessary, however, and Anderson was walking around the arena level after the game.

Coach Paul MacLean said Anderson had a “stiff neck” but that “everything else is fine.” He added Anderson probably won’t be available for Tuesday’s game in Columbus.

“We’ll let the doctors evaluate him and we’ll have a better assessment of it (Monday).”

With Anderson sidelined after stopping 33 shots, Robin Lehner had to come in cold under difficult circumstances. He wound up stopping two more in overtime and one of two in the shootout.

Ray Whitney, Nichushkin and Antoine Roussel scored for the Stars in regulation, with Jamie Benn potting the breakaway contest’s only successful attempt. Kari Lehtonen turned aside 33 shots for the win.

Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan, who snapped his stick in two on the game-tying one-timer with just 10 seconds left in the third period, hit the scoresheet for Ottawa.

The start of the game had all the hallmarks of another debacle, with the Stars running the shot count to 19-9 after one period and taking a 2-0 lead on Nichushkin’s first NHL goal 30 second into the second period.

Things really started to look hopeless when Senators winger Chris Neil took a double-minor for high sticking two minutes later.

Fortunately for the Senators, their home ice penalty kill (first in the NHL) has been one of the bright spots early. They limited the Stars’ chances for the next four minutes. Then they woke up.

Ryan acknowledged it was the turning point in the game.

“I think a four-minute (penalty) when you’re down two can go either way and, if they get a third there, you never know how you’re going to respond or how it’s going to work itself out, so for our PK guys to go out and do a job, it certainly turned it in our direction.

“It’s nice to see this team rebounding and, hopefully, turning the page to something better.”

The Senators fought back to tie things up 2-2 before the end of the second, and momentum was on their side.

They must have been wondering what they’d done to so anger the Hockey Gods after what happened next.

Mark Borowiecki, thrilled to be making his first start with the big club after being called up from AHL Binghamton over the weekend, had about as nightmarish a start as you could imagine for a defensive defenceman trying to establish himself.

He accidentally backhanded the go-ahead goal … into his own net.

“I was pretty thankful Bobby got it back for me there, so you just try and shake it off,” he said afterwards. “I went and gave him a tap after and told him I owed him a beer.”

It was the lone blemish on an otherwise decent debut for the Binghamton captain.

Another positive the team could point to: The No. 1 line of Turris between Clarke MacArthur and Ryan was once again outstanding.

Turris and Ryan broke into the Dallas zone midway through the second, with the latter threading a nice pass through the slot to a waiting Karlsson for the Senators’ first goal.

Karlsson buried a one-timer for his 14th point of the season, drawing him even with Montreal’s P.K. Subban for the NHL lead among defencemen. His assist on Jason Spezza’s marker eight minutes later gave him sole possession of first.

Turris, playing the point on the power play, also picked up an assist on that Spezza goal.

For all that, the Senators know they still have plenty of work to do at the other end of the ice.

The first period was a mess of bad pinches, lazy backchecking and A1 scoring chances for their opponent.

That they escaped with the score 1-0 was a testament to Anderson’s strong start.

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GAME FILE

WHY THEY LOST

Had they played the first period the way they did the second and third, they likely would have snapped their losing skid. They tied things up, but the injury to Anderson — a typically strong shootout goalie — helped do them in.

CHEERS

It was Canadian Armed Forces appreciation day at the rink, with the Senators taking the pre-game skate in camouflage sweaters and uniforms dotting the announced crowd of 18,106.

JEERS

Several of Ottawa’s young defencemen have been struggling, but perhaps none more than Jared Cowen. The Stars were able to speed around him all afternoon as he waved at, and missed, playable pucks.

GONCH RETURNS

Former Senators defenceman Sergei Gonchar received a warm ovation after a T.V. timeout video board highlight reel of his time here. Gonchar, who left for Dallas as a free agent this summer, acknowledged the fans with a little wave.

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